- The Washington Times - Monday, May 20, 2002

Chris Webber is a cutie pie with clean fingernails and barely a bead of sweat on his body.
He is standing on the perimeter again, being a set shooter, staying out of the way of Shaquille O'Neal.
It is so safe out there with the guards, so warm and cuddly, unlike the rough stuff in the three-second lane.
Whenever Webber tries a maneuver close to the basket, bad things seem to happen. The opposition commits all these crimes against his humanity, which go unnoticed by the referees. What can Webber do? He tries to help the referees. He implores them to do their jobs. He makes faces. He pulls out the evidence.
Webber shows the referees his medical charts and X-rays, plus the findings of the human rights organizations monitoring the abuses being perpetrated against him. None of it matters. It is a cold world.
So Webber resorts to the set shot out of self-preservation. The Lakers do not object. If he hits it, they accept it. It is just worth two points.
There is no other damage. There is no need to call a timeout, no need to protect O'Neal from foul trouble, no need to change the defense.
The set shot is the instrument of a pretty player, and Webber is one of the prettiest players around. Alas, pretty players do not go to the free throw line or stretch the opposition's defenses, and nothing against pretty players.
Pretty players are perfectly acceptable as a team's second or third scoring option. Webber, though, is paid to be a very bad man, to lead the Kings to an NBA championship.
Bad men do not live by the set shot, even when they are living fairly well from it. Webber finished with competent enough numbers in Game 1, with 28 points on 14-for-25 shooting, 14 rebounds and six assists. Yet the Lakers hardly raised an eyebrow because of another telling number next to Webber, which was zero free throw attempts.
With no one to work him, O'Neal was free to be an active help defender, more so as the game progressed after drawing only two fouls in 42 minutes.
The difference between O'Neal and Webber is the difference between players in the first and second tiers. The same distinction can be made between Kobe Bryant and Webber.
O'Neal and Bryant tax an opposition's defense, each in his own way, often bending a defense beyond recognition. Each draws one, two, sometimes three defenders to his vicinity. If so, an easy pass follows.
Webber sometimes draws no defender to his set shot. That ought to be a clue not to employ it in such large doses. But that is Webber: forever pretty, forever confused.
He still sometimes can't tell the difference between the smart and dumb play. In his quest to be pretty, to show his guard-like abilities, he incurs a high number of player-control fouls.
He drew another one late in the game against the Lakers, just as the Kings, down by seven points, were making one final push.
There was Webber in the middle of the floor, near the foul line, and there was Mike Bibby, so open, on the right side, just waiting for the simple pass to be delivered, just waiting and waiting.
The simple pass was too good for Webber. There was no sizzle to it. Instead, he went into his dipsy-doodle mode, dribbling right, then moving to the basket before crashing into Derek Fisher while trying to make a behind-the-head pass to Bibby with his left hand. The whistle was blown, and an opportunity was squandered.
No, that one play did not spoil the comeback hopes of the Kings. It merely reflected where Webber is as a player.
He has plenty of talent, as it is always noted, just not the polish and savvy to finish the job against the elite.
The challenge before Webber is an old one. It is the same one he faced while with the Wizards. It is this: Find a tutor and gym in the offseason and plant your back to the basket. Work on your footwork. Develop a drop step, a turnaround jumper and crisper moves. Study old film of Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin McHale. And finally, wise up.
The responsibility goes with the salary. That is the deal.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide